At one moment he felt like a rapparee riding the black mare out on to the hillcrest. The next he was troubled and nervous; troubled when he thought of what old Pats would say; nervous when the mare shuddered in her muscles and curved away, head up and ears cocked, from a white stone that appeared dimly out of the bogland. He was afraid of her, of the proud spirit he was beginning to sense in her. Would she work? Would she go under a cart and haul home their turf from the bog? The fellow with the wart on his eye said she would; but then he was in a hell-sight too great a hurry to get shut of her. She might be doped; it wouldn't be the first time tinkers doped a horse.
Edward Sheehy, "The Black Mare"
To stand alone, I thought; to stand alone and unarmed, unarmed but watchful; that was my wish - unarmed, fearful, watchful; haunted perhaps by untold fears lodged in every imagined shadow; mute as the rabbit was mute, and stalked as it was stalked by one vast foolish braggart threat...
Michael MacGrian, "Myself and a Rabbit"
Mr. Toole had a peculiarity. He had the habit, when accompanied by another person, of saluting total strangers; but only if these strangers were of important air and costly raiment. He meant thus to make it known that he had friends in high places, and that he himself, though poor, was a person of quality fallen on evil days through some undisclosed sacrifice made in the interest of immutable principle early in life. Most of the strangers, startled out of their private thoughts, stammered a salutation in return.
Brian O'Nolan, "The Martyr's Crown"
St. John Ervine
Townsmen and neighbours mingled with men from the country and the hills, and fishermen from the bay where the girl was drowned; and each man, as he came up to a group of acquaintances, spoke of the terribleness of the disaster, and then the talk circled round the affairs of the small town.
St. John Ervine, "The Burial"
"Far away," continued the statue in a low musical voice, "far away in a little street there is a poor house. One of the windows is open, and through it I can see a woman seated at a table. Her face is thin and worn, and she has coarse, red hands, all pricked by the needle, for she is a seamstress. She is embroidering passion-flowers on a satin gown for the loveliest of the Queen's maids-of-honour to wear at the next Court-ball. In a bed in the corner of the room her little boy is lying ill. He has a fever, and is asking for oranges. His mother has nothing to give him but river water, so he is crying. Swallow, Swallow, little Swallow, will you not bring her the ruby out of my sword-hilt? My feet are fastened to this pedestal and I cannot move."
Oscar Wilde, "The Happy Prince"
ApologiesOnce again, Typepad inexplicably turned off the comments on my entire blog, but now the comments are just as inexplicably back on again. (If I blogged more avidly, and if I thought the transition to a new platform would be anything less than a nightmare, I'd move it elsewhere, like to Wordpress.) So if you've been eager to share your two cents on any of the obscure Irish writers I've been excerpting this month, you can now comment away!
"...be like him, if you can..."
Jonathan Swift's self-penned epitaph:
Here lies the body
Of Jonathan Swift, S.T.D.,
Dean of this cathedral,
Where wild indignation
Can tear his heart.
And be like him, if you can,
Vigorous to his utmost
As liberty’s avenger.
William Butler Yeats
And then he was silent and nobody liked to question him, and they began to play. There were six men at the boards playing, and the others were looking on behind. They played two or three games for nothing, and then the old man took a fourpenny bit, worn very thin and smooth, out from his pocket, and he called to the rest to put something on the game. Then they all put down something on the boards, and little as it was it looked much, from the way it was shoved from one to another, first one man winning it and then his neighbour. And sometimes the luck would go against a man and he would have nothing left, and then one or another would lend him something, and he would pay it again out of his winnings, for neither good nor bad luck stopped long with anyone.
William Butler Yeats, "Red Hanrahan"
One evening she was walking by the canal when The Golden Barque passed. The light was very clear and searching. It showed every plank, battered and tarstained, on the rough hulk, but for all that it lost none of its magic for Mary. The little shrunken driver, head down, the lips moving, walked beside the horse. She heard his low mutters as he passed. The red-faced man was stooping over the side of the boat, swinging out a vessel tied to a rope, to haul up some water. He was singing a ballad in a monotonous voice. A tall, dark, spare man was standing by the funnel, looking vacantly ahead. Then Mary's eyes travelled to the tiller.
Seumas O'Kelly, "Michael and Mary"
"Put on your good clothes," said the widow, making a great effort to be gentle, but her manners had become as twisted and as hard as the branches of the trees across the road from her, and even the kindly offers she made seemed harsh. The boy sat on the chair in a slumped position that kept her nerves on edge, and set up a further conflict of irritation and love in her heart. She hated to see him slumping there in the chair, not asking to go outside the door, but still she was uneasy whenever he as much as looked in the direction of the door. She felt safe while he was under the roof; inside the lintel; under her eyes.
Mary Lavin, "The Story of the Widow's Son"
The man was pitiable, and I pitied him. I went alternately hot and cold. I blushed for him and for myself; for the stones under our feet and for the light clouds that went scudding above our heads; and in another instant I was pale with rage at his shameful, shameless persistence. I thrust my hands into my pockets, because they were no longer hands but fists; and because they tingled and were inclined to jerk without authority from me.
James Stephens, "Schoolfellows"
He began to lead the way home. The sexton trailed a miserable yard or two behind. Glory was gone out of his life. The wonderful day seemed to mock him. The future was a known road stretching before his leaden legs. What he had thought would prove a pleasant bauble had turned to a crown of thorns. In the past, whenever he had chafed against the drab nature of his existence, he had consoled himself thus: "One day, perhaps today, I'll run and buy me a hoop of bright colors."
Bryan McMahon, "The Cat and the Cornfield"
"Could I remember the music?" exclaimed Johnny. "Indeed, but it would be the day of the greatest aise to me when the day dawns that I disremember every screech of it. As for describing of it," he continued, after some head-scratching, "will you tell him that it would be beyond the powers of the worst poet yet born to put words to it. 'Tis such a roaring and a buzzing and a banging and a beating: such a twirling of trumpets and a tweaking of flutes and a scattering of the scraping of fiddles that the like of it was never heard before in the history of the world. 'Tis like the bellowings of young animals in pain and the howling of infants in divilment and the scolding of women in crossness and in the midst of it all there is this ould divil of a queer one, waving his hands up and down and about in the air as though the sound was all running out of the ends of his fingers like porter out of a tap."
Eric Cross, "Saint Bakeoven"
"One afternoon I was planting in the orchard under an apple-tree iris reticulata, those lovely violet flowers...Suddenly I heard Virginia’s voice calling to me from the sitting room window: 'Hitler is making a speech.' I shouted back, 'I shan’t come. I’m planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead.' Last March, twenty-one years after Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, a few of those violet flowers still flowered under the apple-tree in the orchard." - Leonard Woolf
Left alone John breathed freely, and for some reason whenever he crossed the floor he did so on his tiptoes. He lifted the red cloak that was trimmed in fur, held it in his outstretched arms to admire it, and squeezed the life out of a moth that was struggling in one of the folds. Chips of tinsel glinted on the shoulders of the cloak and he was ready to flick them off when he decided it was more Christmassy-looking to let them remain on. He pulled on the cloak, crossed on tiptoes to a looking-glass on the wall and winked and grimaced at himself, sometimes putting up the collar of the cloak to enjoy the warm touch of fur on the back of his neck. He attached the beard and the whiskers, spitting out one or two hairs that had strayed into his mouth.
Michael McLaverty, "Father Christmas"
But the exasperating thing is that his victims do talk to him again, and in the most friendly way, though why they do it I do not know considering some of the things he says and writes about them. He is the man who said of a certain woman who is in the habit of writing letters to the press in defence of the Department of Roads and Railways: "Ah, sure, she wrote that with the Minister's tongue in her cheek." Yet the Minister for Roads and Railways is one of his best friends, and he says, "Ike Dignam? Ah, sure! He's all right. The poor divil is good at heart." And the cursed thing is that Ike is good at heart. I have long since given up trying to understand what this means. Something vaguely connected with hope and consolation and the endless mercy of God?
Sean O'Faolain, "Persecution Mania"
Padraic O Conaire
The rain was coming down in torrents and the west wind blew a full gale from the sea. Where there were trees by the roadside the wind made the weirdest music in their bare branches. The full moon was somewhere up in the sky if the astronomers were to be believed, but it was completely hidden from us. I was wet to the skin, tired, weary and hungry. The driver was in no better condition. The horse was just dragging its legs after him and his head bobbed up and down like a child's toy horse. The wind shrieked, making a sound like devils' music.
- Padraic O Conaire, "The Devil and O'Flaherty"
Mr. Mulvey was gray and hunched and small, with heavy-lidded gloomy eyes and a mouth turning down hopelessly at the corners. A first glance, before he opened his mouth, suggested that his voice would be a sick wind among the reeds, but in fact it was big and jolly and when he laughed, which was frequently, you had the fantastic impression that some enchantment had been worked before your eyes and that this was certainly not the man who had walked into the room. It was difficult to say whether his life had taken the form of a victorious battle against his natural temperament, or whether it was only his appearance which belied him.
- Val Mulkerns, "The World Outside"
"It's a terrible thing to put a curse on a man, and the curse that Julia put on Father Madden's parish was a bad one, the divil a worse. The sun was up at the time, and she on the hilltop raising both her hands. And the curse she put on the parish was that every year a roof must fall in and a family go to America. That was the curse, your honor, and every word of it has come true. You'll see for yourself as soon as we cross the mearing."
- George Moore, "Julia Cahill's Curse"
They sat with their arms folded while Brother Quinlan, in the high chair at the head of the class, gave religious instruction. Swaine kept his bruised face lowered. Without the glasses it had a bald, maimed look, as though his eyebrows, or a nose, or an eye, were missing. They had exchanged no words since the fight. Peter was aware of the boots. They were a defeat, something to be ashamed of. His mother only thought they would keep out the rain. She didn't understand that it would be better to have wet feet. People did not laugh at you because your feet were wet.
- James Plunkett, "Weep for Our Pride"
That was what he had heard. He knew it was nothing else. For two years he had drilled and marched and fought with the East Wicklow column of the I.R.A. and knew every sound that a rifle gives. Whoever had thrown that stone had wanted him to sit up, so that he might be seen - and shot. The click behind the trees meant that whoever held the rifle was determined to take no chances. He was not going to rely on one shot, he had filled his magazine to make sure. But he had not fired. That, Michael could not understand. He had loaded his magazine because he had meant to fire. As Michael sent his light craft skimming over the lake he forgot his expectant fear in meditating on the mystery of the rifle that did not speak.
- David Hogan, "The Leaping Trout"
In pursuit of these delights, Ringwood ranged and roved from Donegal to Wexford through all the seasons of the year. There were not many hunts he had not led at some time or other on a borrowed mount, or many bridges he had not leaned over through half a May morning, or many inn parlors where he had not snored away a wet winter afternoon in front of the fire.
- John Collier, "The Lady on the Grey"
Poor Mr. Wilson nearly rose out of the bed with the fright when he saw Brother Augustine coming in, in his habit. Brother MacCormack was so small and neat and the black clothes were so quiet that Mr. Wilson hardly noticed them, but when he saw Brother Augustine coming in as big as a house with the rosary flapping at his side he thought his last hour had come and this was the devil for his soul.
- Donagh MacDonagh, "Duet for Organ and Strings"
He was thinking all the time, thinking in a slow unhappy kind of way. He sat down beside the curragh; his eyes narrowly slightly as he fixed them on the dimly-dark outline of the island, a ragged and discordant rent in the unbroken skyline like a great tear. Gradually the broad expanse seemed to narrow, the sea between the shore and the rocky island faded to a thin line like a road between.
- Desmond Clarke, "The Islandman"
Paul Vincent Carroll
At a mischievous bend on the mountain path, the Manahan cottage suddenly jumped out of the mist like a sheep dog and welcomed them with a blaze of wild, flowering creepers. Inside, the middle-aged labourer was bending over a dark deep chimney nook. A turf fire burned underneath on the floor. From a sooty hook far up, a rude chain hung down and supported a large pot of boiling water. She nodded approvingly and donning her overalls moved away in the direction of the highly-pitched cries from an inner room.
- Paul Vincent Carroll, "She Went by Gently"
Acute discomfort showed among the peasantmen, while the shopkeeper still smiled. Gradually, in the silence, a guilty, hang-dog expression appeared on each face, as if Packy had caught them out in some mean and sordid conspiracy to cheat him. Then, the silence continuing, they stared at the gombeen in blank and hopeless calm. They had nothing, could pay nothing, could do nothing.
- Jim Phelan, "Bell Wethers"
He threw himself down on the clothes beside the yellow-haired woman. She smiled and looked at the tinker. The tinker paused with the bottle to his lips and looked at her through almost closed eyes savagely. He took the bottle from his lips bared his white teeth. The golden-headed woman shrugged her shoulders and pouted. The dark-haired woman laughed aloud, stretched back with one arm under her head and the other stretched out towards the tinker.
- Liam O'Flaherty, "The Tent"
She always cycled down to Johnston's on Saturday night and left the bicycle outside while she got drunk in the bar parlour. It was a strange thing, but she always seemed to ride much better when she came out of Johnston's. At other times her method of riding was slow and wobbly and uncertain, as if she were on a bicycle for the first time. But on leaving the pub on Saturday nights she would heave her huge body on to the saddle and go pedalling furiously up the narrow street, weaving in and out among carts and dogs and herds of cattle, narrowly missing other cyclists and shouting at anyone who got in the way.
- Arnold Hill, "Miss Gillespie and the Micks"
"...refracted care and love..."
"Probably the central plank of our relationship was going to football matches. There was something very special about the whole experience of the matchday. It was just me and my dad and we’d go and meet up with some of the other fellas. The routine of it was so important. We’d go to the same pubs on the journey towards the ground and we’d stay in those pubs for the same number of pints and get to the ground and have the same in-stadium routine. For me a sausage roll, for my dad a pie, and a Bovril each. And it was a way, I think … perhaps for two quite Yorkshire men, especially my dad, to show their kind of refracted care and love for each other. That was easier on that day, Saturday, than during the rest of the week." - Ross Raisin
There's an interesting comment in the article about soccer being not as literary as baseball or cricket. I think the reason for that is those two sports are slower, with long periods of inactivity and contemplation, while soccer is in constant motion.
"I'm very glad," repeated Ivor in his mind, wonderingly, yet feeling that the words fitted in. He noticed Driscoll and Mescall, their arms hanging heavily after their night's work, their sea boots clumping noisily almost along the deck, going aft to the little cabin, making down the hatchway without a word. The boy had gone down previously. The waft of the smell of boiling fish, of boiling potatoes, that came from the smoke pipe told of his toil below. To Ivor it was very welcome. He was hungry; and besides they would presently all meet together around the little stove. "I'm very glad," he whispered, not knowing why. And the smoke, he saw, was like a lighted plume rising from the top of the iron pipe.
- Daniel Corkery, "The Awakening"
He stopped abruptly before the look that came over her face. But she said nothing. She had it in her mind to fling at him an old Gaelic proverb about the fool and the sea, but she closed her mouth, partly because of island courtesy, partly because the proverb itself touched too closely on memories of her own. She had heard an old man hurl it through his beard the night they brought her father home in an old sail, and she had heard it many times since, when young men, rotted with death and salt water, were laid down in an old graveyard near the Lighthouse.
- Padraic Fallon, "Something in a Boat"
"Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it..."
"Few lies carry the inventor’s mark, and the most prostitute enemy to truth may spread a thousand, without being known for the author: besides, as the vilest writer hath his readers, so the greatest liar hath his believers: and it often happens, that if a lie be believed only for an hour, it hath done its work, and there is no further occasion for it. Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it, so that when men come to be undeceived, it is too late; the jest is over, and the tale hath had its effect: like a man, who hath thought of a good repartee when the discourse is changed, or the company parted; or like a physician, who hath found out an infallible medicine, after the patient is dead." - Jonathan Swift, from "Political Lying"
For one year I was virtual dictator of that team, being captain of the team and secretary and treasurer of the club. There was no means of checking up on my cash which gave rise to a lot of ill-founded suspicion. I remember I kept the money in an attache-case under my bed. It is possible that every so often I visited it for the price of a packet of cigarettes, but nothing serious.
- Patrick Kavanagh, "Football"
To give Father his due, he was always ready to lose a half day for the sake of an old neighbour. It wasn't so much that he liked funerals as that he was a conscientious man who did as he would be done by; and nothing could have consoled him so much for the prospect of his own death as the assurance of a worthy funeral.
- Frank O'Connor, "The Drunkard"
For this year's Irish March, I never got around to picking out any novels, after having found, last summer, the anthology 44 Irish Short Stories (1955), edited by Devin Garrity. Since there are 33 authors included, my plan is to read a story by a different author each day this month - and with two authors to spare, I can skip the ubiquitous James Joyce and explore writers I'm not familiar with. I'll post a story excerpt each day, to share some flavor of the writing.